Yesterday, perhaps the worst-kept secret in snowboarding became official. adidas announced, in a unique fashion, it is going all in on the snowboard market. In addition to Jake Blauvelt, who signed with the brand earlier this year and is celebrating the release of his signature après shred boot this month, adidas has signed Keegan Valaika, Eric Jackson, Helen Schettini, Kazu Kokubo, and Forest Bailey to its snow squad. To fire up the hype machine, the team riders announced their new sponsor Thursday, October 11 over their various social media feeds.
“The whole idea with the team is collaboration and really using the rider’s voice to share what adidas Snowboarding is all about,” explains industry vet and adidas Snowboarding Team Manager Chris Hotell. “To us, this means collaboration on everything from developing products like Jake’s après shred boot to collaborating on how we announce them. It also helps that the team is small and each rider has a ton of respect for each other. They’re stoked to be a part of something so new, excited about the opportunity to ride together and are they want to share that. It’s impossible to really convey that through a company press release.”
“The Blauvelt après shred boot was really our way to soft launch the adidas Snowboarding program,” says Jess Weinstein, global brand marketing manager for adidas Action Sports. “We wanted to do it right and take the time in building the FW13 collection that consists of snowboarding boots and technical outerwear apparel.”
In between putting the finishing touches on the line and marketing plan as they gear up for the official launch at SIA, Weinstein and Hotell took a few minutes out to tell us more about the team, the line, and the brand’s strategy for getting back into snowboarding.
Congrats on the announcement, this is a big move. Tell us about the decision to make the announcement using your new team member’s social media and the timing. How did that go and did it meet your goals?
JW: It’s going really well. We didn’t wanna come into snowboarding and proclaim ourselves as heroes or champions. That’s just not our style. We understand the need to be authentic and that proving ourselves would take time. We’ve done a slow burn with adidas Skateboarding in letting the skaters tell the story, so we took the same approach and decided that our new Snowboarding program would have more impact if we had our best assets, the new team, deliver the message. They are basically launching us via Facebook and Instagram
You’re launching with a diverse team. How did you choose the riders you’re working with and what’s the goal going forward as you add to the squad?
CH: Not many brands have the privilege of starting the team off with someone like Jake Blauvelt. He was the perfect person to build a foundation around because he loved what adidas was doing in skateboarding and knew what the brand could be in snow. It’s also amazing how passionate he is about designing technical product. Having Jake on for this season allowed us to grow the team a bit more organically. It soon became a combo of talking to Jake and finding riders that we knew we could collaborate with to build the best gear for different types of riding; urban, park, and backcountry. We’re going to keep the team tight and do more with them so we can really maintain the amazing chemistry we have right now. It’s rare that you have a team or riders that all really want to ride together too and we have that.
JW: Our big thing was to work with riders that wanted to work with us. We are pretty collaborative over here and that means having the team give input on what they want out of product and marketing to an extent. We take the approach that everyday-riders should have as much fun as the pros, so build it with them in mind, and it becomes ideal for riders of all levels.
Why is adidas getting back into snowboarding and what niche do you see the brand filling?
JW: Honestly we just dabbled in it before. Only in the last two years did we get serious. We drafted on the success of adidas Skateboarding and took it to the next, most logical “action sport,” snowboarding.
We got the support from adidas upper management to go big and that is when we built the Action Sports Business Unit. It was imperative for us to first build a strong team internally, and then move to a strong team on the mountain. There is something to be said for growing the program naturally.
You guys did outerwear a while back and then a super-limited run of boots in ’07. While you only made like 50 boots, the outerwear seemed like a pretty serious push in the late ’90s. Was that a licensing deal like the goggles? Why did you stop that line and how are you approaching the market differently this go round?
JW: Well we just jumped the gun a bit. Many brands do that—they get stoked on the potential and then go to market in an expedited way. It rarely works. For us, we were working across the street from Salomon, who was under the adidas AG Brand until 2005, and collaborated with them on a boot based on the iconic adidas Originals shoe, The Shelltoe. It was just a small run and it’s a total eBay find now. Perhaps that planted the seed, I don’t know, but it’s definitely a testament to having a bigger plan, taking your time, fine tuning your goals and then just make good shit. Oh, and marketing is key, lotsa marketing!
What are you going to be doing to promote the team and the brand before the line hits retail?
CH: Most of these riders are with us because they were tired of being told what projects they had to film for or events they had to go to. We’re helping them take the reins and focus on what they are excited about. Whether it’s a video project like Jake Blauvelt’s Naturally, which drops Fall of 2013, or sharing Kazu Kokubo’s story as he works towards the 2014 Olympics, we are really trying to help our team hit personal milestones.
Each rider has an awesome personality so it’s really putting each of them in a position to showcase that in a way that’s true to them. We will also be doing one big team trip similar to how we do in Skate to get the majority of our assets for the global snow campaign and show our unique team dynamic. Working with snowboard camps, we like the idea of bringing the team to consumers.
What retailers are you hoping to get on board?
JW: We are looking to sign up core snowboarding shops. We want to be in true, board shops first and foremost. We will have a couple boots in the range and a small-to-medium technical apparel collection, so we want it to hang together and to sit amongst true snowboarding brands. We are going global, so we need it to be in core shops in the Alps just as prominently as doors in North America and Canada. Here’s the official release on the new team:
Portland, OR, October 12, 2012 – Today, adidas announces that it will extend its reach in Snowboarding with the addition of five new Pro team members. Joining Jake Blauvelt (signed earlier in the year, and with a signature après shred boot launching this month) the following Professional Snowboarders join the team: Kazu Kokubo, Eric Jackson, Helen Schettini, Forest Bailey and Keegan Valaika.
This is a diverse group of individuals with a mutual respect for each other and a shared excitement to work collaboratively with the adidas Action Sports team. All are signed to wear adidas Snowboard boots that roll out in Fall of 2013.
Additionally, Eric, Keegan and Kazu are all signed on for apparel technical outerwear. Helen and Keegan are also on adidas Eyewear. The entire range launches in Fall / Winter 2013. adidas Snowboarding joins adidas Skateboarding in an effort towards dedication to authentic and collaborative footwear and apparel designed by skateboarders and snowboarders, for skateboarders and snowboarders. The first product in the collection, the Jake Blauvelt signature “après shred” boot kicks things off. It will be signed-off with the iconic trefoil logo featured in adidas Skateboarding and iconic streetwear line, adidas Originals. adidas Snowboarding will support the collection with a robust marketing campaign featuring all the riders and rolling out print advertising, film sponsorships, events and a dedicated website at: www.adidas.com/snowboarding (currently featuring Jake Blauvelt and eventually featuring the entire team, product and action).